On Tuesday the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) released its first ever global report on pre-primary education. It reported that 175-million children globally do not have access to pre-primary education, stifling their future educational growth. The report stated that children from low-income countries suffered the most.
It also found that children who attended at least one year of pre-primary schooling were more likely to attain critical literacy and numerical skills, and less likely to drop out of school in future.
Unicef Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said: “Pre-primary schooling is our children’s educational foundation – every stage of education that follows relies on its success. Yet, too many children around the world are denied this opportunity. This increases their risk of repeating grades or dropping out of school altogether and relegates them to the shadows of their more fortunate peers.”
It noted that the three key determinants for pre-primary school attendance were: household wealth, mothers’ level of education and geographical location.
Other findings include:
Role of poverty: Across 64 countries, the poorest children are seven times less likely than children from the wealthiest families to attend early childhood education programmes.
Impact of conflicts: More than two thirds of pre-primary-age children living in 33 countries affected by conflict or disaster are not enrolled in early childhood education programmes.
Cycle of educational achievement: Across countries with available data, children born to mothers who have completed secondary education and above are nearly five times more likely to attend an early childhood education programme than children whose mothers have completed only primary education or have no formal education.
Europe and Central Asia dedicated the highest portion of their education budgets to pre-primary education at 11%, which is higher than the global average of 6.6%.
“If today’s governments want their workforce to be competitive in tomorrow’s economy, they need to start with early education,” said Fore. “If we are to give our children the best shot in life to succeed in a globalized economy, leaders must prioritize, and properly resource, pre-primary education.”